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'Magma rising': Phivolcs says Taal Volcano steaming, big eruption still a possibility

MANILA - Magma continues to deform the Taal Volcano island, its movement resulting in an “uplift” of the volcano, and could be an indication of a possible explosive eruption, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Monday. “Definitely may papaakyat na magma. May nagsusupply pa doon (Definitely there is rising magma. There’s magma being supplied),” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said in a press conference on Monday morning. Phivolcs said despite observations of a calm Taal volcano in the recent days, with only a steady steam emission and “infrequent weak explosions” that generated ash plumes as high at 500 to 100 meters, volcanic activities underground showed otherwise. Phivolcs noted that frequent volcanic earthquakes and the increasing levels of sulfur dioxide were indications of magma movement, which may lead to a possible eruption. As of posting, there have been 714 volcanic earthquakes in the vicinity of Taal Volcano since January 12, 1 p.m., based on the Philippine Seismic Network (PSN). Of that number, 176 were at magnitude 1.2 to 4.1 and were felt at Intensities I to V. Based on the Taal Volcano Network, which can record small earthquakes undetectable by the PSN, there were 673 volcanic earthquakes including 12 low-frequency earthquake. Solidum said the volcanic earthquakes could mean that the water in the island and the surrounding lake was boiling and could result in steam-driven eruptions. He said the magma movement has also resulted in an “uplift” of the volcano, causing fissures or cracks on the ground, like those earlier detected in several towns in Batangas. “Taal Lake is being stretched, the land is being uplifted, water level is going down besides the water from the main crater being vaporized,” Solidum explained. Last week, Phivolcs monitoring showed that the crater lake was vaporized by the continued volcanic activity in Taal. It also revealed smaller craters within the main crater. Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division chief Mariton Bornas said that most of the volcano island has swelled and only the northeastern flank subsiding. Solidum said the high level of sulfur dioxide emission measured (at 4,353 tonnes a day on Sunday and Monday) was also a sign of magma. Bornas earlier explained that sulfur dioxide separates from magma only when it is near the surface. “The increasing (volcanic) gas is an indication that there is magma that can be a cause of possible explosion,” Solidum said. He also raised concerns that Taal Volcano is now an “open system” with no obstructions in the crater in case it has a major eruption. Phivolcs did not comment on evacuation, except that the volcano island should not be visited. It said it was up to the local government units to assess if people living in high-risk areas within the 14-kilometer radius of Taal Volcano’s crater should be momentarily allowed to return to their houses. Solidum maintained, however, that the high-risk areas should be closely observed, especially since they are at risk of experiencing base surges, a deadly lateral blast of hot gas, ash, and volcanic debris. He said in case of eruption, a smaller plume at 3 to 5 kilometers in height can cause ash fall in Cavite but a major eruption creating ash columns higher than 5 kilometers will bring ash to Metro Manila, Laguna, and some parts of Rizal and northern Quezon. Alert level 4 remains up in Taal Volcano, which means hazardous explosive eruption can be expected within hours or days. ABS-CBN NEWS

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60 Minutes: Australian troops training Filipino forces to combat ISIS threat

Australian troops deployed to the Philippines say the threat of ISIS is now on Australia’s doorstep, as the terror group moves closer to home. More than 100 Australian troops from the army, air force and navy are currently based in the southern Philippines, training local forces in combat techniques they learnt on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their mission - known officially as Operation Augury - is not only to equip Filipino forces with new battle techniques, but to also help safeguard Australia’s own regional security. “We just need to be ready and make sure we can counter it,” Group Captain John Young tells 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett. “It may not be in Australia, but this part of the world is in our backyard… they’re our neighbours.” This Sunday, 60 Minutes is the first television program to be given access to the mission - with exclusive access to the drills and scenarios Aussie troops are using to prepare local forces in combat against ISIS and other local extremist groups. Highly-skilled at fighting in the dense jungle, the Philippines military were caught off guard when ISIS forced them to the streets of the major urban city of Marawi. ISIS seized Marawi City in the southern Philippines in May 2017 and claimed it as their East-Asia headquarters. Marawi was once home to more than 200,000 people. Now, it is a ghost town. Homes and shopfronts have been bombed out, with all the cities infrastructure in ruins. Though the siege ended in November 2017, the streets are still too dangerous for locals to return home with hundreds of unexploded bombs hidden in the rubble. The Marawi city siege was the second time in five years that Islamic extremism brought mass bloodshed to the southern Philippines. But the destruction and devastation is a reminder that ISIS is not a far-off threat for Australia - Marawi city is just three-hours flight time from Darwin. 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett confronts the threat of the Islamic State head-on, in an astonishing interview with radicalised Islamic State recruits. Initially lured to extremism by the promise of a wage and better life, the young ISIS recruits sitting across from the 60 Minutes cameras now believe the sickening ideology of those who recruited them. In a shocking interview, 24-year-old Filipino ‘Sadam’ says he joined ISIS three years ago – and tells 60 Minutes he is ready to fight for Islamic State – both at home in the Philippines or across international waters. “We’re just doing what God told us to do,” Sadam says. ‘On Our Doorstep’ airs this Sunday on Channel 9 after Australian Ninja Warrior. NINE.COM.AU

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AFP chief: Joint drill with US troops helps build peace in region

and American soldiers end their two-week military exercises in the Philippines

Philippine and United States military troops ended their two-week joint exercises on Friday, April 23, that highlighted what an American diplomat described as the "strength and resolve" of the military alliance.
“Balikatan showcases the strength and resolve of the Philippine-US alliance,” US embassy chargé d’affaires John Law said during the closing ceremony of the 36th Balikatan Exercise in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Armed Forces chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana agreed, saying: “The successful conduct of this year’s Balikatan Exercise 36-2021 has definitely brought us a step closer towards our goal of capacitating our forces, and as such, will consequently contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific Region."
This year's exercises happened against the backdrop of China's incursions into the West Philippine Sea and amid a pandemic.
They are meant to improve the capability of both militaries to respond to crises. "But training is never over," Law said. "We will continue to advance our military-to-military partnership in pursuit of our shared commitment to mutual defense in a free and open Indo-Pacific."
This is the fourth time the exercises were held since President Rodrigo Duterte became commander-in-chief in 2016. Last year's was canceled due to the pandemic.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana gave assurances that the Philippines will keep its alliance with the superpower through the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
“I am likewise grateful for your constant and continued assurance of the ironclad commitment to our Mutual Defense Treaty,” said Lorenzana.


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